Songs of Childhood: Clay Doll 泥娃娃
“Clay Doll” is a lullaby that my beloved, late grandmother used to sing to me as a young child. On hindsight, it
does seem rather unusual that a children’s song would sound (to my ears) so melancholic.
This was the last piece written under the tutelage of composer doyen and mentor, the late Mr. Leong Yoon Pin, and was dedicated to him as a gift at our last lesson for being an inspirational example to us all, not only as a composer, conductor and teacher but more importantly, as a man of humility, who feels passionately and deeply in all that he sees, hears and does. Amongst the many varied works I have shown him during lessons, Leong seemed the most pleased with this one – perhaps it was due to the economy of means, disciplined counterpoint and a respectful return to simplicity that was so characteristic of the master himself. The latest revision sees the addition of an optional piano accompaniment, written in the same spirit to make the work more accessible to more choirs.
Songs of Childhood: Trishaw
Many grew up singing and thinking of 三轮车 (Trishaw) as a uniquely Singaporean children’s song. As it turns out, the composer of this fine piece is a Taiwanese primary school teacher by the name of 陈石松 (Chén Shí Sōng).
Origins aside, the song nevertheless resonates with Singaporeans, with this arrangement alluding to Singaporean trishaw bells/horns and a famous Singaporean drama serial titled 早安老师 (Good Morning Teacher) as a tribute to both the Taiwanese composer and (music) teachers alike.
The Singapore Teachers‘ Academy for the aRts (STAR) Teachers’ Choir premiered the work on 17 July 2013 at the Asia Pacific Symposium of Music Education Research – Arts Education Conference (APSMER-AEC) conducted by Abdul Hakim.
Laudate Dominum (SSA)
Taken from Psalm 116 (117), this work is specially written for the Methodist Girls School (Secondary) Choir. The ecstatic, euphoric joy in this piece is inspired by the coming of my first child. The SSA version of this work was premiered on 18 July 2010 at the Singapore Conference Hall by the MGS Choir. It was first performed overseas by Musica Nostra conducted by Professor Zsuzsánna Mindszenty in Budapest, Hungary on 14 December 2013. Notably, Laudate Dominum was featured at the 2015 Europa Cantat and has since been performed by numerous award-winning choirs from around the world in various festivals or competitions. It is also possible to add percussion instruments such as djembe, finger cymbals and/or piano improvisation to this piece if a fuller sound is desired. Laudate Dominum is available in SATB, SSA and SAB.
Written at a time when I was studying with Leong Yoon Pin, the work is informed by organum, Bach-ian counterpoint, Indian ragas and a dash of Guns & Roses!
Ecce Crucem Domini
The text, with its hint of exorcism and evocative symbolisms captured my imagination from the very first reading. Orchestration, number of voices to choice of meter and repetitions etc., are replete with Augenmusik (music for the eyes) and references to numerology, with particular emphasis on the numbers 2, 3, 4 and 13. Apart from Augenmusik and numerology that alludes to Christian ideology and stories, spatial distribution of performers, thematic transfiguration and Madrigalism are also key components in the conceptualization of this piece.
Songs of Childhood: Old MacDonald
Conceived to be theatrical & to ‘break down the fourth wall’ between performers and audience, the piece requires the conductor and/or choristers to get suggestions from the audience what animal to insert into the song (see bar 3). The choristers will have to actively respond to the stimuli provided by the audience and insert the appropriate animal noise. The conductor may repeat to the choir the suggested animal before starting to sing for a more secured performance, clarifying which animal and allowing time for matching of animal sounds. A list of suggestions is provided below.
The song ends and goes to the coda when an animal with no commonly known sound is suggested either by choir members or by the audience e.g. rabbits, fish, giraffe. It is suggested that the total duration of this song (inclusive of polling of audience) to be under 3 minutes to avoid fraying the nerves from too many a repetition of the refrain. If audience is extremely intelligent and animals with no commonly known sounds is suggested after several repetitions, conductor can pretend to ‘hear’ such a suggestion, repeat to the choir and end the piece.
Songs of Childhood: Mary Had a Little Lamb
Updates coming soon.
Dona Nobis Pacem
This work was inspired by Sister Karol’s request for a treble choir piece that was in the ‘same style’ as the mixed choir version of Dona Nobis Pacem. Solo may be attempted by vocalist, children’s choir, small group of sopranos or played on an instrument, e.g. clarinet, flute, violin. N.B. Slurs in solo part are not phrasing/bowing marks for instrumentalists!
Second alto line is optional.
Songs of Childhood: Three Blind Mice
One of the first songs I learnt as a child was “Three Blind Mice”. I no longer remember where I learnt it or who taught it to me but the funny and visual lyrics of this children’s song left an indelible impression. It is therefore a natural choice to revisit this song in “Songs of Childhood”.
Theatrical elements are included in this piece to enhance this whimsical story.
The conductor is free to decide what is dramaturgically most effective, be it to use the entire choir in these theatrical displays or employ a few choristers who have more outgoing personalities. Props like toy carving knives or even samurai swords can be very effective and fun for young (or young-at-heart) choirs.